Marketing your private practice is difficult.
For most therapists, marketing is the-thing-that-shall-not-be-named.
I get it. You hate it; I know.
But if there’s one thing I know about therapists is that we have the potential to be excellent marketers.
In fact, I would venture to say that therapists make the best marketers–when we find a way to align our needs (to build a successful private practice) with our clinical insight and integrity.
Marketing for Therapists- can it be easy?
Here’s the thing: you’re already fully equipped with everything you need to know to make marketing your private practice easy.
To the clients you’re meant to serve.
And you don’t have to fill your bookshelf (and head) with all the secrets that the NYT’s ‘Business Bestseller’ list has to offer.
All the information you need to market your therapy practice in a way that’s congruent with your values?
It’s sitting on the other side of the consult room, heartbreak spilling out as your client sniffles out an apology for crying.
Those stories of heartbreak?
Those ruminating thoughts that keep your favorite clients up at night?
That’s information and access professional marketers only wish they had.
And we have it at our fingertips.
Not only that, but our clinical training has honed us to guide clients as they process and transform their deepest traumas into new ways of being in the world and in relationship.
The real question isn’t, “how easy or difficult can marketing your private practice be?”
It’s “why are you hiding your insight from those who need your help?”
When you market with depth, you have the opportunity to help others who aren’t yet clients–yours or anyone’s–while also building your practice into a business that provides you with financial security.
In my work with other therapists and colleagues, I’ve found that most therapists make 3 common mistakes when it comes to marketing their therapy practice.
And in true therapist fashion, I’ve got a treatment plan for it.
Mistake #1- You think marketing your private practice means trying to include everyone.
I was a youth minister for a hot minute.
In fact– being a youth minister (and all the things I loved and hated about it) is what set me on the path to becoming a therapist.
However, one of the things that I absolutely dreaded as a youth minister was the lock-ins.
For those of you lucky enough to never have participated in a lock-in as an adult, they’re basically a caffeine-filled, sugar-saturated, laser-tag-attending, 3 AM movie watching, all-night fun event for adolescents.
And they’re supervised by the youth minister and whatever other adult they can con–ahem, invite–into chaperoning with them.
AKA, a night of no-sleep, and consistent worry about what a large group of hormone-filled teenagers is getting up to if you dare drift off to sleep.
But that is not why I hated lock-ins. It wasn’t so much the lack of sleep that I dreaded…
…it was the evening before the lock-in that caused me some real stress.
Trying to put together the pizza order, in a way that made sure that 40+ people would be satisfied with the toppings and amount they had, and that I wouldn’t be left with eight boxes of miscellaneous slices of pizza that my kids would be too sleepy to remember to bring home.
Coordinating a meal for a large group of people is hard.
Accommodating them all is harder.
How do you know which ONE pizza place will please everyone? (And believe you me, there were arguments about which place was the best).
How do you make sure no one feels left out?
How do you coordinate with and accommodate a lot of different needs, tastes, toppings, not to mention topics of conversation for everyone?
It was hard.
And guess what?
The same goes for your website copy and your therapy directory profile.
Too often, we end up trying to include everybody in what we write and end up captivating no one.
I don’t blame you for dreading marketing–who wouldn’t if one of the secret rules you’re following is ‘I must accommodate everyone.’
That shit is impossible.
Not to mention, when you get honest with yourself, that ‘exclude no one, appeal to everyone’ BS is just a way of hiding.
Hiding from what you really, truly want and settling for whoever ends up calling you.
Simply because somewhere along the way you learned that we “should” work with anyone and everyone.
To not want to work with anyone who calls must mean you're unethical, and actually a really bad therapist, right?
Concise, clear, and congruent marketing allows us to help potential clients discern who is the best fit for them, without requiring us to contort ourselves to be the best fit for every person who comes along.
By only marketing to and working with the clients you are the best fit for, you embrace the core ethical principle of practicing within your competency, rather than acting as if you can do the same level of work with everyone.
So how can you get aligned in your marketing and practice within your competency?
Stop trying to talk to everyone.
Seriously, you really don’t have to and frankly, you gotta stop it.
This first step to building your ideal private practice is actually the hardest for most therapists.
It requires that you let yourself uncover what you have layered over with ‘shoulds’ and ‘ought to’s, and ‘what-will-they-think?’s.
To market your private practice, get in touch with your true desire.
Honestly answer these questions:
- What does your dream private practice look and feel like?
- What kind of work do you yearn for and that lights you up?
- Who is your dream client? Who do you actually want to sit and work with and listen to? What are they like?
Once you get in touch with what you really want, and who you want to work with, writing to that person becomes exponentially easier.
Mistake #2- You’re listing your certifications and calling it a day.
A while back, I was reflecting to one of my psychotherapy clients that EMDR would be a good adjunctive therapy.
“Dude. Seriously? So I should go to more concerts?”
Cue our mirrored expressions of bewilderment.
Clients don’t know what our acronyms mean.
Sometimes they may see our acronyms and think we mean something completely unrelated to what we actually intend to say.
And let’s be real: clients don’t really care about your acronyms.
Don’t get me wrong- our education, our training, our certifications matter.
But marketing yourself as a therapist needs to include more than just listing your certifications and treatment modalities.
Your certifications, clinical training, theoretical orientation–all that serves as a framework for why you do what you do in session. Clients want to know how you can and will help them.
When your ideal client lands on your therapist website or your therapist directory profile, they don’t want to see the acronyms.
At the end of the day, what your potential clients truly want is to know that you can see their pain.
And that YOU can help them with their struggle.
Instead, translate your certifications into what it means for your clients.
Please. Do not take this as an edict to go and list out every acronym and a mini description of what it means.
What I mean is: describe to your ideal client how you can help them beyond your credentials.
Can you be honest and real about who you are?
Discovering how to market yourself as a therapist involves the willingness to model vulnerability and authenticity for our clients. Instead of hiding behind your credentials and acronyms.
Of course, you still need your credentials, and training is wonderful.
But if you can’t translate what it means in concrete practice and relational experience for clients, they’re going to skip right past you, to the next appealing headshot on Psych Today.
Mistake #3- You’re censoring how you write in your marketing.
“All right, I can do that Jenn, I can embrace who I really want to see and translate what it actually means to work from a psychodynamic perspective that integrates EFT.”
So you’ve gotten in touch with your desires.
And now it’s time to write to your clients and make them feel seen.
It’s time to market your private practice and move past the acronyms.
It's time to show them that you understand their pain and are THE therapist to help them.
But here’s the thing, friend.
In order to do this effectively, you can’t censor what you write.
You gotta stop pulling your punches.
I was recently interviewed on Gordon Brewer’s podcast, The Practice of Therapy.
Before the interview, I reflected on the therapists I’ve worked with, walking with them as they crafted words intended to connect with their dream client.
Everything was all well and good until we got to the Fritz Perls moment.
You know the one, where it’s time to confront Gloria and ask her, “Are you a little girl?”
Otherwise known as the gut punch.
(And also, the thing that prompted Gloria to pick Perls over the others).
So often, therapists will hesitate on how honest to actually be when it comes to writing things like…
“In the past, you chose to embrace the label of ‘enlightened stoner’ (and to smoke a bowl a night minimum) rather than let the pain rise to the surface. But lately, marijuana seems more of your enemy than a friend, and no matter what strain you try, all you feel is panicked rather than chilled out.”
Or maybe something like…
“You’re terrified to admit it, but sometimes, you wish you had never become a parent. Oh, you love your kid–but sometimes it feels more in theory, than in fact. You swore to yourself you’d never be like your mother, and yet you hear her voice creeping into how you talk to him more and more.”
When I suggest being direct, the overwhelming hesitation almost always sets in.
Therapists struggle to get specific and direct about their clients’ pain in their marketing and copy.
The fears argue:
“Oh no, this is too punchy. Can I really say that?”
“Can I really speak so directly to my clients’ pain and problems?”
And just like I wanted those listeners in Gordon’s audience to know, I want you to know that the answer is yes.
Yes, you can really say that.
In fact, please do.
Name your therapy clients’ problem.
Therapists tend to pull their punches.
But in doing so, they’re colluding with their clients’ defenses.
By censoring what you say on your website copy or your therapist directory profile, you’re not letting your clients find the help they actually need.
Your clients get mired in shame and think, “if somebody really knew this about me, they’d send me straight to rehab.”
“How could I expose this part of me to another human being?”
As therapists, until we have the courage to say “hey, I REALLY see you,” we will only continue to offer bandaids for people’s bullet holes.
Marketing Your Private Practice- Permission Slip
Let this post be your permission slip.
A permission slip to:
- choose who your ideal client is for your dream private practice
- start writing just to those ideal clients
- uncensor what you say within your copy so that your ideal client feels seen.
And if you need a little extra push, check out Diagnosing Your Struggles with Marketing.
It’s a practical guide for dismantling your defenses against marketing to give you that energy kick to market your private practice.
Until next time,